The Impact of Mexican Migration and Border Proximity on Local Communities
Ayón, David R.
U.S. communities along the Mexican border form a region that is mainly poor, yet are growing faster than the national average. Mexican migration has shaped the region and contributed to its growth and poverty, due to the generally lower income and educational levels of the migrants, their children, and Mexico. Growth and cross-border traffic with Mexico are among the few sources of dynamism in the region’s economy, even as they contribute to fiscal strains on local government. These communities have therefore responded with some ambivalence to Mexican migration and federal border control policies. Expansion and forward deployment of the U.S. Border Patrol—the strategy of “prevention (of migration) through deterrence”—originated locally and proved to be highly popular. The more recent strategy of building additional border fencing, however, was not a local demand and has met with some resistance. In the broadest sense, policy options for the region require fundamental choices regarding growth and integration with Mexico. As long as a substantial development gap remains between the two nations, it is not clear that any level of growth among U.S. border communities east of San Diego can close the gap with the rest of the United States, or if current growth levels are sustainable or desirable in such an arid region. Nevertheless, policy choices can be made that favor (a) continued growth through deepening bilateral integration; (b) greater integration of the region with the national economy; (c) efforts aimed at greater immigrant and Hispanic integration in U.S. society; (d) bilateral efforts to narrow the development gap between Mexico and the United States, or some combination of the above.